Every APR has a journey, a unique path to the Credential.
I first heard of the APR Credential while in graduate school at New York University as I was working toward a Master of Science in public relations and corporate communications. My professor, Melissa May, APR, discussed the accreditation process and how difficult it was. I vowed that once I had five years of experience I would attempt that process.
Fast forward to 2012: I was hired as public relations manager at the Public Relations Society of America, the nation’s largest community of public relations and communications professionals and a participating organization of the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) who oversees the accreditation process. I had nearly a decade of public relations experience and hadn’t yet started my APR journey.
My boss, Arthur Yann, APR, the former vice president of public relations at PRSA, told me very directly during a staff meeting “you’re next Mottola.” I promised him that I would consider it.
When he passed away shortly after, I knew I would make good on that promise.
But, a year later I had found every excuse I could think of to postpone the process:
- My public relations class at St. John’s University, where I teach as an adjunct professor, was keeping me too busy
- Increased responsibilities at work left me spent at the end of the day
- House of Cards needed to be binge watched and it was too addicting to stop
Finally I had the mother of all excuses in hand (pun intended)…I was pregnant with my first child. As I prepared my team for my maternity leave, making sure every project I worked on would have direction and coverage so that nothing would be dropped in my absence, I still felt guilty about delaying the accreditation process.
Any parent will tell you that raising a newborn is difficult and exhausting, so when my maternity leave ended I was conflicted about my return to corporate life. While I wanted to be with my son, I also was anxious to return to productivity and my career. Upon my return, I wanted to “lean in” and continue to develop my skills.
As I researched various continuing education programs, I couldn’t get the APR out of my head. So with spit up on my shirt, and while wearing mismatching socks due to exhaustion, I signed up for the APR examination.
My advice to PR professionals who feel the accreditation process is an insurmountable task is simple: make small goals for yourself and stick to a timeline. When broken down into manageable sections, the KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities needed to pass the exam) don’t seem as daunting. By doing this, you’ll find that you are simply refreshing your skills and discussing your industry knowledge in a different way.
Each weekend, I would go through a single section of the APR Online Course and Study Guide while my son was napping. Then during the week, when I had free time while commuting, I would put my phone down (more difficult than it sounds with pending Facebook notifications) and pick up supporting reading materials that corresponded to the Study Guide chapter I was reading.
My final piece of advice is this: the journey is easier and more enjoyable when you have a friend along for the ride. I am eternally grateful for the support my coworker, Laurent Lawrence, APR, as we embarked on this process together. His encouragement, as well as the encouragement from all PRSA staff, was very much appreciated.
If you’re thinking about starting your APR journey, stop thinking and start doing.
With any professional development opportunity, the first step is the hardest part. If I could earn my APR Credential with a newborn in my arms, you can too. The key is to stop making excuses, for they are simply roadblocks in the way of your personal growth.
Rosanne Mottola, APR is public relations manager for the Public Relations Society of America. She is an adjunct professor of public relations at St. John’s University, Staten Island. Mottola obtained a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from New York University in 2010. You can connect with her on Twitter@RoeMoPR or on LinkedIn.